(Memphis) Getting kids to eat what’s good for them isn’t easy, but we found Shelby County Schools is willing to go to great lengths to do it.
In addition to the fruits and vegetables already being served for breakfast and lunch, the unified district is spending $1.5 million of taxpayer money on a special fresh fruits and vegetables program.
The On Your Side Investigators show us why some say this is a tasty investment.
Shelby County Schools nutrition director Anthony “Chef Tony” Geraci shares his love for fresh fruits and vegetables at Klondike Elementary.
Geraci tells students, “The best way to do this thing is pull that thing out and take a big bite. They are juicy and they are sweet.”
The 4th graders in the class are among thousands of Shelby County students participating in a special fruits and vegetables program.
The USDA gave Tennessee $3 million for it. Shelby County got most of the money based on need.
“When I came here two years ago we were doing about $300,000 a year in the grant. Then, last year we got it up to about $800,000 and then this year $1.5 million,” said Geraci.
The students are given fruits and vegetables they may not have tried before.
“That’s what this program is about. It’s about broadening horizons and making opportunity available where opportunity needs to be,” said Geraci.
They get these nutritious snacks three times a week.
“It’s an excellent investment for our children because they learn how to make good choices early about what they eat,” said Joyce Anderson, Klondike Elementary Principal.
Another reason Shelby County Schools says its fruits and vegetables program is so important is because in areas like where Klonkdike Elementary is located, there are no grocery stores.
Administrators say the fruit the students eat at school may be the only fruit they get all day.
Anderson said, “So many times what is close to us is not what’s best but if we start teaching them what’s best for them then it becomes natural for them.”
This snack time doesn`t interrupt the school day. It’s built into the curriculum.
The plums are part of a math lesson. One student says they’re three dimensional because it has length, width and height.
“It was sour and sweet,” said Terranisha Potts, 4th grade.
The USDA released a study this spring.
It showed students enrolled in the program eat 15 percent more produce than before they enrolled.
Research also showed 86 percent of the time they ate all of their fruit.
Sixty-one percent of the time, they ate most or all of the vegetables.
Nutritionists believe the program is working to change eating habits and will in the end help fight obesity.
Geraci said, “Kids this year are asking for broccoli and our California blend which is a blend of carrots and broccoli and cauliflower. Two years ago it was like eeewh! What is that?”
Geraci says one convert can lead to another and eventually change what’s on the dinner table for entire families.
Terranisha says her love for oranges is already growing on her sister.
The produce for the fresh fruits and vegetables program is purchased from vendors, but the school’s nutrition director says the school is also growing some of its own vegetables to serve during lunch.